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March 24th 2010
Published: July 29th 2010
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24/3/10: I love Valium, we woke up on time and only an hour away from Agra, dreaming until we finally got into town to see how much of a shit whole Agra really is. Once again there were unimaginable amounts of rubbish and filth including men pissing and shitting in plain view beside the road. We unloaded our packs from the top of the bus and were happy to still have them. Jacinta was on a mission and already had organised a tuktuk for us to head into town. We noticed a terrible smell that hung in the early morning air as we were going into town. Jacinta made it very clear to the tuktuk driver that we don't want to be dropped off at a hotel we want to be dropped off at Joney’s place (popular restaurant) for breakfast and she stressed this several times as she was in no mood for shit. Well you guessed it; we pulled up in front of a hotel instead of our intended destination and not listening to her instructions. Jacinta lost it screaming at the tuktuk driver “I’m sick of you people not listening to what I say, I said Joney’s place not hotel” I sat beside Jacinta laughing because I never had seen her in this type of mood with people before. She was totally right as they always try to take us to a hotel to get there commission, this spoils it for us as we then have to pay more for our room just for the privilege of him taking us there. We had breakfast and I scouted on my own finding a guest house called Shanti Lodge only 100m away for 350rs/night, the hotel also had great views of the Taj Mahal was also recommended by the lonely planet guide. We only had one day in Agra so we quickly organised a train ticket for the next morning so we could get out of this filthy town. We had tips from other travellers to just see the Taj and Agra fort and get out ASAP, it was a great tip and it wasn’t hard to see why. We loaded our day packs at once and set out to see the Taj Mahal, we arrived at the east gate only to find out we couldn’t buy the tickets from there so we had to walk back to the south gate and pay 750rs/person. It was extremely expensive for tourist considering that Indians only pay 20rs to get in. It just shows you how racist they really are. We had to go through the massive amount of security to enter the Taj and I had to find a locker for my Swiss army knife and some lollies. I’m not sure why I couldn’t bring the lollies in but then again I’m not sure of a lot of strange things they do in India. We were allowed to take in cameras and take photos of the surrounding Taj but I had to pay 25rs to take in my video/camera. I had no problems paying this as it would be great to get some footage of the Taj. He told me I was only allowed to take video of the court yard and I was happy to do that. I entered down the step onto the courtyard for Jacinta to take a photo when I was interrupted by a small India guy with a whistle blowing it straight at me. “no video no video” he said waving around his bamboo whacking stick. My response was that I paid the 25rs for the privilege of video so that’s what I’m doing, this turned out that I was only allowed to take photos from a step looking off the court yard looking out onto the Taj in the distance. I was whisked away after an argument broke out as I was sure I was allowed to take video. Escorted back to the counter I explained what had happened and the guy said “no cameras past the step” This was totally different to what he originally said and once again getting into an augment about not telling me the right facts. He pointed to a small sign that was obscured by people standing in front which explained everything. No problems I said, I will only take photos no video. Trying to explain to this guy that my camera takes photos was impossible and he didn't want to hear what I was saying and didn’t want to listen. Even a local lady came to the rescue to try and explain what I was talking about including that most digital cameras have a video function that enables you to take video and stills but still he was so dumb, stupid and stubborn he just would get it. I even told him that he could check my camera for photos only when I came out. The argument really started to heat up so I had to just give in and except the fact that we had to use Jacinta’s camera instead of mine that takes poorer photos. We took as many photos as we could but couldn’t get anyone at all to take a decent photo of us together without us standing right in front of the Taj. All we wanted was a full view of the Taj with us in the bottom corner. Things just got more stupid as we entered inside the Taj itself, and out of all the places I thought this would be most heavily reinforced with security.there were signs saying NO PHOTOS! We entered into the dark interior to find camera flashes going off everywhere and not one sign of a disgruntled guard. It was F#$& bullshit! I can’t believe how dumb and stupid the Indian system is, enforcing the most trivial laws but turning a blind eye to the most important ones, then again this is India and it is far from perfect, not even close.******
The first time I saw it was on top of our restaurant when I looked for a room and I latter rubbed it into Jacinta that I saw it before she did. I was impressed by how big it was as I peered over the rooftops from the old rundown buildings surrounding half of the Taj. I was excited to see one of the wonders of the world and what it had to offer. It was built as a shrine to the kings favourite wife after she died in childbirth to her 14th child. You pass through massive gates that are big enough to let the biggest of elephants through. Looking out from the step the garden courtyard made me feel happy just to see green lawns and healthy green trees were the leaves weren't covered by dust and pollution again as I hadn’t seen it for three months. It sounds funny and when I read back on my blog someday I will probably think it is strange as well. But when you travel in the dry months it’s nice to see some greenery. There were a lot of tourist but not as many as I thought there would have been. We walked up the stairs right at the base of this huge building and really felt the immense size of this structure. When I looked closer at the white marble that is the main building material of the Taj and then onto the design work, it is only then you can see and appreciate how detailed the stone inlay work is. With every little piece of collared marble, granite and semi precious stone delicately housed out of the white marble and then set into its place. For me the Taj was just as impressive on a small scale as the large. The inlay work was even more impressive around the tomb as decorative flowers and design work really showed its grandeur. I was upset by the poor lighting inside, it was almost dark inside and the true colours were not even close to showing their true value and craftsmanship of the semi-precious stoned inlays. Only by taking a photo were you able to see colours with the naked eye from the flash of the camera.
The mosque on either side is built from red marble also having different caricature and stile to the buildings. I hate to sound like a grump and write about the bad points but the Taj really didn’t do anything for me. I was impressed but not awed and with the smell of sewerage in the air the whole time we were there really turned us off. We even found parts around the courtyard that had rubbish thrown everywhere even the river behind had mountains of pollution and rubbish directly behind the Taj and couldn’t believe that any tourist money was not being channelled back into the area around the Taj to clean up and beautify the town. Having ticked the Taj Mahal off our list we walked out of the south gate to get swamped by touts wanting us to look at their shops. They had fine pieces of marble plates inlayed with semi precious stones just like the Taj. I visited a few shops each time getting hassled to look at another until finally getting some contacts if we could ever afford to buy some pieces when we get back to Australia. We walked towards the Agra Fort trying to forget about the terrible smell that hung in the air. The smell got worse as we followed a so called beautified roadway with horse and camel carts giving rides from the Taj West gate to the Agra Fort. It was fenced on either side the whole way, behind the fence there was raw sewerage channelling inside the reserve. In some parts it was so bad that it was frothing and bubbling as it dammed itself from the piles of rubbish before finally spewing over. This extended right up to the fort finally crossing a causeway that was once the Agra Fort moat but now has been downgraded to carry raw sewerage into the river behind. At least they had the decency of concreting a lid 15m either side of the bridge so when we crossed it we didn’t see the shit and rubbish; we only smell it.
AGRA FORT cost us 250rs/per for entry saving 50/per because we did the Taj on the same day. The fort was built from the same red stone as the mosques on either side of the Taj, it was absolutely huge. The fort later converted to a palace by the prince more than 200 years ago. We spent around 2hours walking around all the different rooms and courtyards trying to stay out of the 40deg heat. I found this just as interesting as the Taj and would like to spend more time on studying up on the history. We caught a rickshaw back to town pleased that our train ticket was booked and confirmed for tomorrow morning.
That afternoon we had another confrontation with an Indian man when we asked how much he charged for internet per hour in his cafe. He said “35rs/hr” we privately mentioned to ourselves that it was 5rs less in our hotel, he overheard and used this as an excuse to start an argument about how cheap it is and that we pay more in Aus so what are you winging about. We both weren't sure what he was on about as he rattled on, he then said “if you think it’s too expensive than go somewhere else” it was only then did I realise that he was being a smart arse so I put him back in his place real quick, Jacinta had to stand in front of me before I belted him around the ears as I’d had enough of everything in India including allot of the idiots out there. 99% of the time everyone was very friendly but because we were dealing mostly with Indians that saw us as having loads of money then this percentage shrunk real quick. Too us, most store owners were there to try and rip us off as much as possible not letting you go until a sale was made. Thinking that we are stupid people with money falling out of our pockets they try everything in the book. You just get sick and tired of it everyday. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT

It was time for us to make harsh decisions about whether we wanted to stay or get out of India as we both were on the verge of really loosing it with the Indian people in general. At first you except the hassling, pig headedness and the countless times you say NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO to touts, tuktuk drivers, shop owners and beggars. Somehow NO means pester me more, maybe later, follow me around and show me more useless junk that I don't want or give me money because I’m too lazy to get a job but I will act hungry anyway. After awhile your emotions start to get the better of you, once you become tired of the whole thing and India slowly wears you down until you snap. Dormant primordial brain cells in your emotions are awakening as a defence mechanism to stay alive kick in. Your own caractor starts to change and before long you start to wonder who you really are, especially when you just flew off the handle for something trivial. Sometimes you go off the handle so much you don't even knowing that you had that type of temper in you, it even scares you what you might be capable of doing when under a little more strain. If we didn’t get out soon I would end up in jail for assault or in a mental hospital because of the shear frustration. It’s fine if you have been brought with one billion people and that is all you know but with me coming into a backwards country like this I just can’t understand how it all works or that people are happy to put up with, or treat their own people, travellers and their own country like this.


Here’s a little experiment: Forcefully say NO! And read the above until the end, this is a typical walk down the street. See if you can do it without getting tired, cranky, bored and losing your temper. If you think this is not a challenge then also imagine dodging motorbikes, tuk tuks, dog, cow and human shit as well as trying to hear over the massive amount of traffic and noise. Now do this 20 times a day for eight weeks and you may come close to what we are feeling.
Anyway I should try to calm down and remind myself of a saying we have in Australia that is “If you don't like it then leave!”I can leave whenever I want.
Don't get me wrong we still love India and have loved traveling here, we just need a break.

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29th July 2010

Sorry to hear about your bad experiences... wish my countrymen are more considerate to the tourists.. things will change for the better
1st August 2010

It's all fine
It's just a different culture that Im not used too. Being in any place that your not used to can heighten emotions to a braking point. India certainly does do things different to the rest of the world but that's what makes it so unique. India stands alone, simply nothing can compare to it. Your fellow country men are great, we found some of the nicest people in India, just the odd one or two can spoil things but that can, and does happen in every country. Out of all the countries, India is the one we talk about the most, just because it is so amazing. Regards Dan

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